MMJ efforts advance in Australia; New Zealand next?

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Marijuana entrepreneurs interested in tapping the newly announced Australian market may want to start their reconnaissance in the state of New South Wales – and keep New Zealand on their radars as well.

The New South Wales government has been ahead of Australia’s legalization curve, establishing the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation at the University of Sydney in June and committing $15.24 million to clinical trials. Australian banker Barry Lambert also donated $24.45 million to the university for cannabis research.

Federal and state officials announced Friday that New South Wales’ Department of Primary Industries and the new cannabis center will begin looking for cultivation sites and exploring how to develop a sustainable supply of medical marijuana.

Australia announced plans this month to allow the cultivation of marijuana for use in medical trials.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s associate health minister told a local television station that New Zealand is “highly likely” to legalize medical cannabis should Australia’s research trials prove successful.

While he did not see any “regulatory impediment” to the legalization process, the official cautioned that it would still move slowly, and that pharmaceutical companies do not see New Zealand as a large enough market to conduct trials.